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A beautifully printed impression of the only state from the edition of 500 on this paper, published by G. Boudet, Librairie Artistique, in the L. Roger-Miles book Art et Nature, Paris 1897 (there were 25 additional impressions printed on Imperial Japan for an overall edition of 525 published in 1897, there was a second edition of 1000 printed in black published in the Ambroise Vollard book La Vie et luvre de Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Chez Vollard, Paris, 1919). Printed at lImprimerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1897. Catalog: Delteil 11; Stella 11.
This composition is closely related to the 1881 painting La Baigneuse. The model was an Italian girl whom Renoir met while travelling near Naples, but he superimposed on the figure the features of his favorite Parisian model of the period, Gabrielle. There is a sense of light and soft modeling in Renoir's study, which makes it amongst the most beautiful figure images in his etched oeuvre. Although referred to as a 'Bather', evoking almost classical aesthetic ideas, the study is essentially an expression of the purely realist treatment of the theme of the nude which is so central to Impressionist art. Like Degas, Renoir wanted to capture the idea of an actual person in an everyday moment of time.
At the same time as seeking to express this concept of a modern 'realism', for Renoir figure studies were also a vehicle for the expression of the visual sensation of light. In the later years of his life Renoir was concentrating on techniques which allowed him to model form almost totally in terms of light rather than contour. The more linear handling seen in the works of the 1860s and '70s gave place to a concentration on tone, and on a depiction of form, in which background shadow and softened contour blend together.